Dexter Copeland felt like he watched something magical every time Donta Beckham touched the ball last season.
Through returns on kickoffs, punts and interceptions, Beckham managed to find the end zone eight times.
So the Baldwin head coach decided he needed to integrate his rising senior into more aspects of the game in 2011.
The result was a special performance by the all-state cornerback.
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Beckham rushed for two touchdowns, caught another touchdown and blocked a punt that was returned for a score in the Braves’ 41-7 win over Central on Friday at the Ed DeFore Sports Complex. He also broke up several passes and racked up tackles from sideline to sideline.
“Great coaching, huh,” Copeland said with a smile. “You don’t have to be very smart to know that kid needs the ball in his hands. He’s special.”
Beckham scored the Braves’ opening touchdown on a 2-yard plunge, and he added a 34-yard score on a screen pass from DeAndre Thomas to put the Braves up 21-0.
The punt block, however, was his most impactful play.
Leading 21-7, Baldwin (1-1, 1-0) couldn’t finish off a scoring drive early in the third quarter. Central’s Titus Jones intercepted Thomas on his own 2-yard line and returned the ball out to midfield. The Chargers’ drive, however, stalled after it reached Braves’ territory. Beckham came free on the deep snap and swatted the ball into the ground. Tyler Edwards scooped the ball up and returned it 26 yards for the touchdown.
Baldwin forced a fumble on Central’s next drive, and the Braves eventually found the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run by Beckham.
The lead grew from 14 to 27 in less than two minutes.
“We played sloppy in the first half, but we made some plays when we needed them,” Copeland said.
Central handed the ball back to Baldwin on its next drive when a bad deep snap resulted in the punter getting tackled for a big loss. The Braves eventually scored on a 16-yard touchdown run by Kentavious Thomas to lead 41-7.
DeAndre Thomas passed for 224 yards, and the Braves’ defense held the Chargers to 54 yards of offense in the second half.
The Chargers (1-1, 0-1) moved the ball into Baldwin territory six times in the game, but they managed just one touchdown.
Central got onto the board near the end of the first half on a gimmick play.
Quarterback Takori Clark threw the ball to Kavaizea Oliver, but Oliver appeared to just tip the ball backwards to a streaking Adarius Whisby. Whisby finished off the last 15 yards for the touchdown to pull the Chargers to within two touchdowns at 21-7.